Curious where the locals eat in Las Vegas? Look to Downtown. Once a culinary wasteland, recent development largely fueled by Tony Hsieh-backed investment group the Downtown Project has transformed the neighborhood into a restaurant row crammed with eateries doing fun, flavorful food at reasonable prices—the best Downtown Las Vegas restaurants are now some of the best in the city. Settle in for a full meal, or hop from spot to spot, sampling international small plates, Cajun cooking, top Las Vegas steakhouses or award-winning pizza. When you’re ready for a drink, some of Las Vegas’s best bars beckon.
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Best Downtown Las Vegas restaurants
Opened downtown in the midst of the area’s redevelopment, this gastropub from beloved Vegas chef Kerry Simon—who died in September 2015 of MSA—signaled a shift in the neighborhood’s dining scene. Finally, there was a place for creative comfort food and potent cocktails, a place to meet friends for a bite or head on a first date—if, that is, you could get a table. Since opening in 2014, Carson Kitchen has been packed with locals who come for the lively vibe and clean-your-plate cooking. Make a reservation in advance and get down on that bacon jam and bourbon fudge brownie.
We could list Pizza Rock chef Tony Gemignani’s credentials, the many awards and titles he’s won. But we’ll just say this: The man knows his way around a pie. And there are plenty on the menu at this downtown restaurant, where the pizzas are listed according to their cooking temperature and type of oven. Purists will want the Margherita Napoletana (baked in a 900-degree wood-fired oven), while more adventurous types might opt for the Cal Italia with gorgonzola, prosciutto and fig preserves (650-degree gas brick oven) or one of the Romana varieties (700-degree electric brick oven)—long, thin pies with three different sets of toppings. The decor is unfortunately more focused on the rock than the pizza, but the food is worth the view of a decorative truck parked in the dining room.
Leading the Fremont East culinary charge, this restaurant from local chef Dan Coughlin predates most of its gastronomic neighbors. It’s no longer the only table on the block, but it still has loyal fans and for good reason. The brief menu is full of casual, tasty Thai fare with Coughlin’s own spin, like three-color curry, “awesome noodles” (that are pretty damn awesome) and waterfall beef—strips of tender, marinated meat served with sticky rice and addictive waterfall sauce. Really want to indulge? Four words: short rib fried rice.
Following the trend of casino chefs ditching the corporate lifestyle to do their own thing, this restaurant from Vegas vet Bradley Manchester is a gastropub where you can go light with small plates of curried cauliflower and ahi tacos or dig into heartier fare like cavatelli and short rib or a wickedly good burger. Don’t sleep through brunch. The apple pie waffle is calling.
Straight out of Detroit, this restaurant at the downtown resort named for the Motor City is an upscale oasis amid the neighborhood’s casual cafés and pubs. The menu reads like a greatest hits list for both steakhouses and Italian eateries, heavy on standards like wedge salads, fried calamari and lobster risotto. What it lacks in surprises, Andiamo makes up for in execution—and big, juicy, deliciously charred meat.
Despite naming her restaurant in a manner guaranteed to be overlooked by anyone searching for food on the internet, owner/chef Natalie Young (who did previous stints at Mr Lucky’s among others) has one thing going for her: she produces damn good comfort food at reasonable prices. Choices like a truffled egg sandwich (breakfast) or a shrimp po’boy (lunch) ensure that the place won’t be mistaken for a old greasy spoon. And that’s a good thing.
Guilt-free street eats. That’s the idea behind this 100 percent plant-based joint where sacrificing meat doesn’t mean missing out on flavor. The menu ranges across the globe from Moroccan tagine to Vietnamese pho to sweet potato quesadillas, and even the cocktails are made with cold-pressed juices, so you can feel good about getting sauced.
Casual? Absolutely. Flavorful? Unquestionably. This low-key joint from another former Strip cook slings Cajun cuisine a la southwest Louisiana—gumbo, red beans and rice, and of course, po-boys, served on straight-from-New-Orleans Leidenheimer bread. Don’t miss the roasted brisket “debris” sandwich, which some have dubbed one of the city’s best.
Hugo’s is one of Vegas’s original fine-dining establishments, and its old traditions are still good ones: pampering wait staff, a tableside visit from the famous salad cart, a solid wine list and a rose for the lady. The menu is vintage Vegas gourmet rather than fusion, heavy on the meat and seafood (steak and lobster are the stars), and just what you’d expect for dessert (cherries jubilee, bananas Foster).